My Top Finance Resolution for 2017? Say Goodbye to Credit Card Debt

By Motley Fool Staff Markets Fool.com

Resolutions can be tough to keep, especially financial resolutions, which can get derailed by any number of unexpected expenses throughout the year. In this clip from The Motley Fool's Industry Focus: Healthcare podcast, financial writer Todd Campbell explains to analyst Kristine Harjes why rising interest rates and the potential for a bump up in his credit score make this his top financial priority for 2017.

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A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Jan. 11, 2017.

Kristine Harjes: I wanted to give you a chance to share your resolution,if you have a financial one to share with the crowd.

Todd Campbell:Well,after hearing about that delicious meal,I think my resolution might be to make lunch soon.

Harjes: I can't blame youif you haven't eaten already; it's almost 1 p.m.

Campbell:I know. That sounded fantastic to me. No, on a serious note,every year I try to make a resolution. I know that resolutions are hard,and a lot of people don't follow through with them, myself included. ButI think it's a good way to take stock of your personal situation, and point yourself in the right direction. So don't beat yourself up too muchif you don't end up executing on the resolution 100%. But for me, I use them as a guidepost to say, "What would I like to see myself accomplish this year?" Personally,I have a little bit of credit card debt still kicking around, and I'd love to see that gone when we ring the bell into 2018.

Harjes:I think that's something that a lot of listenerscould also probably also afford to do. Not everybody in the United States has credit card debt, but those that do have, on average, $16,061 in credit card debt, which totals, within the U.S., to $747 billion in credit card debt. It costs these people, on average, $1,292 in interest payments every year.

Campbell:Right. And what's scary, Kristine, and one of the reasons this is my 2017 resolution, is that we know the interest rates, the trend now is toward higher, not lower. So, those interest costs could become a much bigger burden on myself, and anyone else who's listening who happens to be still having credit card debt out there. It's something that's getting more and more important as we move away from the 0%-interest-rate environment. And, as an added benefit, as you pay down those credit cards, it improves your utilization, which means that your credit score climbs, which means if you do go out and get a loan, say, for a car, at some point, or to refinance your home,maybe you get a little bit better of a rate and save some money in the long run that way, too.

Harjes:Yep. It's a win-win. Interestingly, I found a NerdWallet report that states that a 0.25% increase in thefederal funds rate -- which is exactly what was voted on by the Fedin its December meeting -- will increase the average annual credit cardinterest payment for households that have this type of debt from that $1,292 that I mentioned earlier to $1,309. If you'redoing the math, that's only $17 difference. But as you mentioned, Todd, that rate isexpected to keep climbing. So that $17 could add up to $34, andeven more than that as time goes on andinterest rates go up. So I think your resolution is awesome, and I think the earlier you act on it, the better.

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